WAYNE – Northern Highlands’ first performance as New Jersey’s top ranked public school has set off a clock.
The Highlanders scored on their first two possessions and took a 42-7 victory over Passaic Tech on Friday night at the Super Football Conference.
Big plays are Northern Highlands’ calling card and senior quarterback Enzo Arjona led the way with four touchdown passes to set off a 35-point running clock midway through the fourth quarter.
“A lot of our guns were shown tonight and it was pretty good,” said Arjona, whose team is No.1 in NorthJersey.com’s Top 20 public and No.8 in New Jersey’s Top 25. USA TODAY NETWORK.
Arjona was 12 for 21 for 214 yards. He threw 35 and 10-yard touchdowns in the first quarter to senior Kyle Major for a 12-0 lead. He also threw 41 and 19 yard touchdowns in the fourth quarter to junior Zach Madison.
The defense of the Northern Highlands has been excellent without allowing for big plays. The Highlanders only cleared Passaic Tech on a single over 15-yard play, a 34-yard run by second-year hobbyhorse running back Trashon Dye.
“They stepped it up,” Highlanders coach Greg Russo said of the defense. “We attacked the defense quite hard after the [32-20 win] over Somerville, and Somerville had excellent offensive players. But we struggled with them.
Northern Highlands (2-0) passed Somerville, a team that has enjoyed more success and a better reputation, after scoring the last 19 points of Sunday’s game at Rutgers. The Highlanders are ranked behind seven non-public schools, with No. 9 Millville the only other public school among the 12.
“It’s great to be known as one of the best schools in the state,” said Highlanders junior linebacker Zach Chostaka, who had an interception. “It’s great to come here, and everyone wants to beat us, and we have to come every week and step up and play.”
The Highlanders have their own hobbyhorse as senior running back Nick Branca. He ran 127 yards and scored on a 13-yard run in the third to increase the lead to 27-7. The offensive line has often saved him time to choose his race lane.
Still, if you can believe it, the Northern Highlands could have been so much better. The Highlanders dropped four assists, and two could easily have gone for scores. They have also been reported for several detention penalties.
“We started really well, shooting all the cylinders, playing really well, and then we had a case of penalties,” said Russo. “We had penalties, we left them in the game, and then I liked the way we reacted.”
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Passaic Tech (1-1) scored his only touchdown in the second quarter to reduce the deficit to 12-7. Senior quarterback Dylan Cummings ran for 6 yards. Bulldogs are big and tough, but the Northern Highlands have a lot of ball helmets.
“Our defense is ridiculous,” said Arjona, who scored on a 4-yard run with 19 seconds left in the second quarter to give it a 20-7 lead at halftime. “They planned the game all week for this team, [Passaic Tech] came into smashing football, [our defense] was crazy people say they were too small to go against this team, and they showed today that it doesn’t matter size, and it’s more about the heart.
Russo said Northern Highlands does not feel any pressure based on their ranking, but rather the pressure to play at an extremely high level.
“Our pressure is that we try to play at the highest level possible,” said Russo. “And we think if we do that we’re going to beat everyone we play with. And the challenge is you have to keep trying to play there. “
Greg Mattura is a sports reporter for NorthJersey.com. For full access to live scores, the latest news and analysis from our Varsity Aces team, subscribe today. To receive the latest news straight to your phone, sign up for our newsletter and download our app.
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